Ah, it would be beautiful to untangle this snarl all alone. It would be the finest chase that had ever fallen to his lot. No grain of sand, however small, should escape him. There were fools in Berlin as well as in Paris; and he knew what he knew. “Never a move shall he make that I shan’t make the same; and in one thing I shall move first. Two million francs! Handsome! It is I who must find this treasure, this fulcrum to the lever which is going to upheave France. There will be no difficulty then in pricking the pretty bubble. In the meantime we shall proceed to Munich and carefully inquire into the affairs of the grand opera singer, Hildegarde von Mitter.”
He extracted a wallet from an inner pocket and opened it across his knees. It was full of butterflies.
A PLASTER STATUETTE
Fitzgerald’s view from his club window afforded the same impersonal outlook as from a window in a car. It was the two living currents, moving in opposite directions, each making toward a similar goal, only in a million different ways, that absorbed him. Subconsciously he was always counting, counting, now by fives, now by tens, but invariably found new entertainment ere he reached the respectable three numerals of an even hundred. Sometimes it was a silk hat which he followed till it became lost up the Avenue; and as often as not he would single out a waiting cabman and speculate on the quality of his fare; and other whimsies.
That this was such and such a woman, or that was such and such a man never led him into any of that gossip so common among club-men who are out of touch with the vital things in life. Even when he espied a friend in this mysterious flow of souls, there was only a transient flash of recognition in his eyes. When he wasn’t in the tennis-courts, or the billiard- or card-rooms, he was generally to be found in this corner. He had seen all manner of crowds, armies pursuing and retreating, vast concords in public squares, at coronations, at catastrophes, at play, and he never lost interest in watching them; they were the great expressions of humanity. This is perhaps the reason why his articles were always so rich in color. No two crowds were ever alike to him, consequently he never was at loss for a fresh description.
To-day the Italian vender of plaster statuettes caught his eye. For an hour now the poor wretch hadn’t even drawn the attention of one of the thousands passing. Fitzgerald felt sorry for him, and once the desire came to go over and buy out the Neapolitan; but he was too comfortable where he was, and beyond that he was expecting a friend.